Easter–What’s Going On
April 8, 2012

Easter–What’s Going On

Passage: Acts 10:34-43, John 20:1-18

Easter Sunday, and here we are. Maybe you are here to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and express your faith in our risen Lord. Maybe you are here because you remember what Easter has meant to you in the past and you are hopeful for this day and this gathering. Maybe you are here with family or friends – which may mean you were dragged here, we are honest folks. Maybe you are searching for something, or hoping for something – you’re not sure what. And maybe you are even now wondering how you ended up here. And that is OK.

Imagine with me what it is like to be in the midst of something such that you cannot see what overall is happening, where you are going, or how far you have come. Sometimes we get focused on our day-to-day routines or struggles, and we don’t realize how we have been holding on or that progress has been made. Sometimes we deal with what is in front of us and don’t see what is almost off stage. Sometimes we rely on what we expect, what we know, and so miss what is unexpected or out of the ordinary. And sometimes I – and we – just get distracted, used to the same-old-same-old, and then comes a surprise. A new possibility.

Mary Magdalene and the other women went to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid. They went in the midst of their grief, their pain, their devastation over Jesus’ death. They brought spices to finish preparing the body for burial – immediate tasks on the occasion of death.
They expected to find the heavy stone rolled in front of the tomb, and his body lying inside.

Mary did not realize what had already happened, what new reality was now dawning. How could she? But there is was.

She finds the tomb empty, and goes to tell Peter and John. Those disciples also expected Jesus to be dead, and their hopes and dreams to have ended. They were afraid, anxious, adrift, as we may be when catastrophe falls upon us, or when a job or a loved one is no longer there.

They run to see this continuing disaster which they don’t understand – Jesus is dead, right? Then Mary says he is not where they left him. What is going on?

Peter goes into the tomb and sees the grave wrappings. He looks at the facts and realizes that something has happened – something new.

John sees the empty tomb and remembers the Scriptures. Something new is happening, life is changed.

Mary returns to the tomb, and hears Jesus call her name – she is addressed personally – she experiences a new reality, the risen Lord.

Mary, Peter and John didn’t know what would lie ahead. They will come to know Jesus – alive, victorious over death – through the breaking of bread, through his guidance in daily fishing, through his peace and commissioning (in spite of locked doors), through being knocked down on the road to Damascus.

What of us – here today? Do we know what is going on in our lives, beyond what we immediately see? Do we know what brought us here together this Easter and what God has in store for us?

What of the church? Is it really so negative to hear people say they are spiritual but not religious? Is being a minority as a Christian community, especially as a progressive, welcoming, diverse Christian community such a hardship?

What of our world? What difference will our faith and ministries, day by day – all of us, seven days a week – make in this world?

Personally, we know our failings and weaknesses and disappointments. But if we listen to this Easter story, if we remember what happened to our brothers and sisters the disciples, there may be more going on that we cannot see. God is bringing new life, even through we are used to death. God is opening a new way, a new hope, not like the way life was before. To say “Christ is Risen” means that the old ways no longer apply as the only possible order for what to expect.

We know people who say they are not religious – they don’t go to church – but they are spiritual. Rather than be offended or disappointed, consider what the Holy Spirit is stirring in them and in us when we take our spiritual lives and journeys seriously. Yes, the Church will have to adjust, but if we keep our focus on God and on Jesus, who after all don’t always use the Book of Common Prayer or worship they we always have, then we shall welcome all seekers and continue to serve. Diana Butler Bass, an astute scholar of Christian history, says in her new book Christianity after Religion: The End of the Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, that just as there have been in American history 3 “Great Awakening” periods thus far, we are
now in a Fourth Great Awakening, which we cannot see clearly because we are in the midst of it. There is vitality and hope in and for the church – this parish and many churches of all kinds. Are we willing to listen and learn and discover what this Easter church will be like?

And as for this world – although there is so much division and partisanship around us politically, so many issues and challenges in our economic and environmental situations, and although we get overwhelmed – more is going on that we can celebrate and proclaim and build upon. We can turn away from focusing only on what is wrong, or looking backward with nostalgia at the way life used to be. We can consider the needs and rights of all people, all
classes, all races and backgrounds. Our first lesson spoke of God showing no partiality, and our Epistle spoke of God’s surprising grace. These lessons can greatly impact our social, economic and political lives if we take them seriously.

Think with me. In the midst of death, God raised Jesus to new life. A ragged band of disciples began a movement that almost ceased a number of times but still continues, even drawing folks like us to live generous and hopeful lives together. In the church we planted in California 25 years ago, we had a saying: ‘little is much when God is involved’. We each must offer what ministry we can, in faith, with hope, and watch for what God will grow from such seeds and offerings.

Now how shall we know this is true, and not all just wishful thinking? How did Mary and Peter and John know that Christ is risen? They looked beyond what they expected and feared, and watched what God was doing in their midst. Remember the words of the Prophet Isaiah: ‘behold, I am doing a new thing, says the Lord. Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?’ (Isaiah 43:19)

Let this Easter Gospel, the good news of Christ’s resurrection, be like a lens to see more clearly what life is about. For many of us, without our glasses or contacts, we don’t see clearly what is around us, what is going on. But when we put on our glasses – there you are. The Resurrection is a lens for spiritual sight, to see what we might otherwise miss. What are you missing in your own life and family and situation? How is God present and seeking to bring new life?
What is God doing here in our midst at St. Andrew’s, beyond me and those who are so very active?

What Good News of God’s love through Jesus Christ, what spiritual encouragement are we called to bring to this troubled world? What difference shall God make through us?

So watch out – Christ is risen!

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